Starlin Castro, One Year Later

One thing is for sure: Starlin Castro can hit. With nearly 1,000 major league plate appearances under his belt, Castro is an established .300 hitter — and he's 21 freaking years old.

But what else can we say about Castro's skill set, roughly 1,000 PAs after his debut? Let's look at some more sabery stuff — like BABIP, ISO, and UZR — to evaluate Starlin's growth over the past two seasons.

1) BABIP

In his debut season, Castro posted a .346 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), one of the highest such rates in the league. And while BABIP does fluctuate from year to year for both pitchers and hitters, it tends to be more stable for offensive players, moving up and down with a batter's batted ball types and speed.

Some folks might have assumed Castro's high BABIP in 2010 was the product of a season-long lucky streak. But that theory has since been debunked, as Starlin has basically the same BABIP this year that he did last year, giving him the 7th-highest BABIP in the league since his debut. Furthermore, he has a lower strikeout rate than all six of the hitters ahead of him in BABIP. That means if he can increase his home run totals over the next few years while keeping the BABIP high and the K-rate low, he's as good a bet as any to win a batting title. But I guess we already knew that about him.

Derek Jeter, who posted a BABIP similar to Castro's in his first couple years in the league, posted multiple seasons with a BABIP at or above  .380.

2) ISO

Speaking of tacking on a few more HRs: has Castro's power increased at all this season? The answer is yes. His isolated slugging percentage (ISO, or SLG - AVG) is up by 11 points this year, up from .108 to .119.

Jeter's ISO in his first few years hovered around .115, before bouncing around between .150 and .200 for a few years, when his HR totals varied between 15 and 24. But Jeter's power stroke really didn't present itself until his age 24 season, so it may be a while for Starlin as well. (See this image for a better idea of what I'm talking about.)

3) K/BB

Starlin isn't any more patient this season than he was last year — in fact, his BB% has gone down, from 5.7% to 4.1%. But his strikeout rate is down also, from 14% to 13.3%. For me, the numbers are so close over the past two years that I don't think they'll change much over the next several seasons. But whatever, he's already a .300 hitter at age 21 so who are you to criticize his approach Mr. Sour Pants?

4) Speed

Last year: 10 SB against 8 CS. In 2011: 12 SB against 5 CS. Better, but still a little ways to go.

5) Defense

His fielding percentage has improved slightly, from .950 to .965. But who cares about fielding percentage? Instead, check out UZR, which says his runs allowed on errors are down — but his range and double play ability are apparently worse, too. If you ask me, my eyes say he's getting better about making routine plays. I'm worried that some people are still saying he won't be able to stick at SS as he gets older, but I'm not smart enough to have an opinion on the issue myself. He's certainly got the arm to stay on the left side of the infield, but I guess we'll see if that's at SS or 3B.

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I guess that's about all I've got. The hitting/running signs are good, but I don't know if we know any more now than we did a year ago about his future on defense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • I'm a huge fan of Starlin, his physical abilities and his potential.

    I feel like he can be a guy who hits .350 and .400+OBP, along with 40 doubles, and 10 HR's.

    The lack of homeruns doesn't worry me though. It's simply not his game, and I'm okay with that. I don't look for him to be a #3-#5 hitter, I like him in the leadoff spot.

    The thing about his lack of walks, is that they're a product of his ability to put balls into play, and the nature of a Dominican player. However, he has a very advanced feel for where the strikezone is, he simply needs to force himself to not swing at pitches outside the strike zone, and pick his pitches to hit.

    With regards to speed? He's fast enough. Anyone who hits more than 5 triples in a season is fast enough to steal an adequate number of bases. It's just a learning thing, learning the technique of how to steal and not get caught. He would rather not make an out than die trying at this point. Ceiling wise, there's no reason he can't be a 20-25 SB guy.

    He will be 22 to start next season. Already his 3rd (essentially) full season. I see no reason for him to regress.

  • Who in this league hits .350? And I'm sorry, but a 5% walk rate does not get you to a .400 OBP. I'd temper those expectations of yours just a wee bit.

    Similarly, are you sure he has a good feel for the zone, or just a strong ability to put the bat on the ball? If he knew what a ball looked like, why wouldn't he be taking more of them before today?

    If he's not gonna walk, he needs to knock a few more balls out of the park to go from a .300/.330/.420 guy to a .330/.360/.480 hitter.

  • In reply to ajwalsh08:

    I think he has a good feel for the zone due to the number of pitches he takes which are close to the zone, but he doesn't flinch. The lack of walks is correctable.

    Also, Adrian Gonzalez is hitting over .350, he has 12 more hits in 20 fewer at bats. His OBP is also at .413. He's struck out more than Castro, but does have twice the walks. Those walks are coming at the lowest rate since his first full season in MLB. You also assume that a walk rate is consistent through a career, which it definitely is not.

    Reyes was also over .350 before his injury.

    I don't feel that it is unfathomable for Castro to hit.350. He's still not physically mature, and is learning the game as he goes. Until I see pitchers finding a true hole in his swing and are able to take advantage of it consistently, my expectations will stay high.

  • In reply to Cameron Macpherson:

    Gonzalez will have an easier time hitting for a higher average because he hits a lot more homers than Castro at this point. Starlin's avg ceiling is all about BABIP. His .348 mark is already one of the league's highest; how high do you think it can go?

    And walk rate absolutely is a consistent skill; either you know how to take a base on balls or you don't. Kosuke and Geo Soto know how to walk; Soriano and Byrd do not. Gonzalez has always had a walk rate at or above 9%; that's double Castro's 4.7% number.

    Reyes may have been above .350 for a while, but hitting that well over an entire season is really really difficult.

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